The Life Span of a Parrot Cichlid

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Parrot cichlids, also called parrot fish, can add a bright splash of color to your tank, and if you care for them properly they will live long, healthy lives. The parrot fish lifespan in captivity is impressive: potentially 10 to 15 years. The average parrot fish age is ten; however, avoid buying parrot cichlids that are not orange, because methods used to alter the fish's color can dramatically decrease lifespan.


The lifespan of a parrot cichlid is potentially 10 to 15 years.
Image Credit: Svetlanais/iStock/GettyImages

The family Cichlidae is the largest group of freshwater fish and contains some of the most recognizable species in hobby aquariums including discus fish, angelfish, and parrot cichlids. There are two natural species of parrot cichlid that can be found in South America and Central America, but more common in the home aquarium is the human bred hybrid known as the blood parrot cichlid. Note that some tropical fish sellers do not stock hybrid breeds for ethical reasons.


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Blood parrot cichlid origins

While many aquarium hobbyists are familiar with blood parrot cichlids, many do not realize this species does not occur naturally. The two real parrot cichlid species are Hoplarchus psittacus and Hypsophrys nicaraguensis, though the latter is more commonly called the Nicaragua cichlid. True parrot cichlids are fairly rare in the hobby aquarium, but the blood parrot cichlid is widely available, known for its deep red-orange color and the distinct beak-like shape of its face.


Because blood parrot cichlids are a hybrid species, blood parrot cichlids have no scientific name. However, it is recommended they be cared for similar to any central American cichlid species, since both parent species come from this region. Blood parrot cichlids have been bred with other species to create color variants such as the purple heart parrot cichlid and bubblegum parrot cichlid.


Blood parrot cichlid lifespan

Hoplarchus psittacus, or the true parrot cichlid, can live up to 10 years in captivity. Some specimens, however, have been known to live upwards of 15 years. Similarly, Hypsophrys nicaraguensis, or the Nicaragua cichlid, generally live between 10 and 15 years, though some specimens live longer. The blood parrot cichlid has a similar life expectancy of about 10 years. A long life span is common among cichlids —particularly among some of the larger species.


Maximizing parrot fish lifespan

The best way to maximize the parrot cichlid lifespan is to maintain a healthy tank environment and feed the fish a nutritious diet. Most parrot cichlids thrive in a pH close to neutral, though they can tolerate slightly lower levels around 6.5 or as high as 7.4. The ideal temperature for a parrot cichlid tank is in the range of 76 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, though Hoplarchus psittacus tend to thrive in slightly warmer temperatures.


Parrot fish are omnivores and are easy to feed — but don't overfeed. A healthy diet for parrot cichlids should include a staple diet of high-quality cichlid flakes or pellets supplemented with live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, mussels, and vegetables such as blanched lettuce or zucchini.


Parrot fish age and care

Because the two natural species of parrot cichlid come from different natural habitats, it is wise to cater the water parameters of your tank to the particular species you intend to cultivate, encouraging the best parrot fish age potential. Tank-bred specimens are likely to tolerate a wider variety of tank conditions than wild-caught specimens, and hybrid species such as the blood parrot cichlid are the most tolerant. To keep the water quality in your tank high, avoid overfeeding your parrot cichlids and perform weekly water changes of between 10 and 20 percent of the tank volume.



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